How could a man sink so low? He reached too high. Those are the last two lines of Twentieth Century Fox’s 1947 noir thriller, Nightmare Alley. The lines are a fitting finale for the movie, which is one of many lesser-known noir flicks from the studio, now known as 20th Century Studios. That is because not only do they bring the lesser-known noir flick full circle, but because they also collectively help describe Searchlight Pictures’ new reboot of the classic flick, which is scheduled for release Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray. Interestingly enough, Searchlight Pictures is a division of 20th Century Studios. The reboot reaches high but never really succeeds in itself in attempting to bring renewed attention to the original movie. On the positive side, the story at the heart of the movie does help make the movie worth watching at least once. The story’s execution meanwhile offsets the engagement and entertainment generated through the story and must be addressed. The movie’s cinematography rounds out the most important of the reboot’s elements and works with the story to make this presentation at least somewhat more worth watching. It will also be discussed later. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the new Nightmare Alley. All things considered, they make the reboot a presentation that is almost as engaging and entertaining as its source material.
Searchlight Pictures’ reboot of 20th Century Fox’s 1947 noir flick, Nightmare Alley, is an interesting new take of a lesser-known classic from the silver age of cinema. It is a presentation that comes up short in comparison to its source material, but still proves itself worth watching at least once. The value in the reboot is exhibited in large part through the movie’s central story. The story in question centers on Stanton Carlisle, a fake psychic who learns how to trick not only audiences, but women, too. The catch is that while he thinks he is tricking so many people, things don’t turn out quite so well for him in the end. Not to give away too much, but the old adage that what goes around comes around plays out relatively well in this reboot/period piece almost as well as in the original movie. Audiences will be interested to see as the story progresses that the same thing that happened to Pete in the long run happened to Stan. Again, the full story will not be revealed here so as to not spoil things for audiences who have not yet watched the movie. That item in itself makes the movie worth watching at least once.
While the story featured in Nightmare Alley gives audiences at least some reason to give the movie a chance, the execution of the reboot’s story detracts from the story’s overall engagement and entertainment. The original story runs just under two hours at one hour, 51 minutes. The reboot runs two and a half hours. The increased length comes from the fact that some scenes from the original have been moved around while at other points, the writing staff of writer/director Guillermo del Toro, Kim Morgan, and William Lindsay Gresham added things that were not in the original movie. What’s more, certain amounts of explicit content were added to the movie that were not in the original movie and not needed, either. One of the changes that the writers made in the reboot was to limit the use of the tarot card scenes. The original story incorporated their use at least twice early in the story and midway through. In the case of the reboot, it is used only once in the story’s final act. What’s more, the scene in the reboot in which Stanton (played by Bradley Cooper) backs over Anderson (Holt McCallany) and then runs him over was an added and completely unnecessary moment. The same can be said of the moment early on when the geek (which is apparently another word for a circus sideshow freak) bites the head off of a chicken. That is a scene from the original movie, but there really is no need for the explicit nature of the scene in the reboot, what with all of the blood. It’s like the movie’s creative heads did that just for shock value, which is concerning. In yet another case, the scene in which Pete dies is changed and extended from the original movie. In the case of the reboot, what was originally a private moment becomes a longer public scene in the carnival, and the more extended sequence in which Stanton teaches Molly (Rooney Mara) about the electrocution chair and how it works adds to the movie’s run time. The original movie did involve this element, but did not add all of the unnecessary extra content used in the reboot. There is also added content late in the movie in which Stanton talks with Judge Kimball (Peter MacNeill) about his sordid past. The extra content here is way more than was in the original scenes from the 1947 take of the movie. Simply put, between this item, the others addressed here, and so many others incorporated into the reboot, there is a lot changed from the original to the reboot that did not need to be changed in so many ways. Yes, the reboot’s content largely does strive to stay true to the original, but there are just so many changes that it makes the movie not necessarily the original and in turn not as engaging as the original movie.
While the amount of changes that occur between Nightmare Alley‘s original movie and its new reboot are concerning, they are not enough to completely ruin the reboot’s presentation. The cinematography works with the story to make for at least a little bit more engagement. The cinematography uses so many specific angles that help enhance the tension of certain scenes. At others, the close ups and the cuts help to keep the sense of steady pacing moving even with the movie’s extensive run time in mind. That plays into the general look of the movie (which is too spit shined even as it takes audiences back to the 1930s and 40s) to help immerse audiences that much more into the movie. Considering that along with the appeal in the movie’s story, the two elements together make Nightmare Alley neither a dream nor a nightmare in itself.
Searchlight Pictures’ new reboot of 20th Century Fox’s classic 1947 noir thriller Nightmare Alley is an interesting presentation. It proves worth watching at least once because of its story. Unlike so many reboots past and present, this movie actually sticks to the story of the original movie. That in itself will appeal to audiences and hopefully encourage audiences to take in the story in the original movie. While the story does form a stable foundation for the reboot of Nightmare Alley, its execution detracts from the overall appeal. That is because of how much content was added, removed, and moved around. There is plenty of content in the story that was either not needed (especially explicit content) or needed in other places throughout the story. It is concerning, but not enough to completely doom the movie. The cinematography works with the story to make for even more engagement. That is because it helps enhance the mood of given scenes, and in turn help viewers look past the reboot’s two hour, 30 minute run time and feel like the movie moves at a relatively stable pace. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Nightmare Alley‘s presentation. All things considered, they make the reboot neither a dream nor a nightmare.
Nightmare Alley is scheduled for release Tuesday on Blu-ray and DVD. More information on this and other titles from Searchlight Pictures is available at:
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